LA Rams News: PFF 2020 top honors awarded to DT Aaron Donald

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

In LA Rams News: PFF has projected Rams DT Aaron Donald as the top player in 2020

The LA Rams may not be getting much respect as a team, but there is no shortage of respect for LA Rams All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald. Particularly if you are an avid follower of Pro Football Focus.  Not only is Donald number one in their latest list of the top-50 NFL players for 2020, but he is, in their own words, “…the best player in the NFL by a distance…”.  That’s a pretty huge endorsement as the list includes such standouts like Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

While virtually all 32 teams are represented in the list, surprisingly the Rams sole representative on the list is Donald.  PFF did not list cornerback Jalen Ramsey, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, nor wide receiver Robert Woods. While that certainly was surprising, pre-season lists are as much about the controversy of deliberate omissions as they are about the inclusion of outstanding players in the NFL.  It’s a year of low expectations for the LA Rams, and thus players are back to the “prove-it-on-the-field” status once more.

PFF list

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Of course, the folks love the San Francisco 49ers. And after just one breakout season for the 49ers tight end George Kittle, suddenly he has been listed the fifth-best player in the entire NFL for 2020. That seems like a bit of an overreach. So does the presence of 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman projected as 14th in the league for 2020.  This list, like many lists, is heavily influenced by the most recent NFL season and carries an east coast bias. But it’s nearly impossible to sterilize any list of this nature to a purely objective argument. Besides, what is the fun in that?

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What PFF got right and wrong

PFF’s list did get some things right. They have ample representation for the players in the trenches, specifically offensive linemen who are often overlooked due to a lack of meaningful box score statistics. They also make a fair effort to represent all positions in their list, covering safeties and cornerbacks separately, which allows for the differing roles and responsibilities to matter in their list.

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But they get some things wrong, as well.  While they awarded a top-ten grade to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (ninth) despite changing teams from the Houston Texans to the Arizona Cardinals, no such courtesy was bestowed to cornerback Byron Jones, who signed a new contract with the Miami Dolphins after leaving the Dallas Cowboys via free agency.

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Double or nothing

PFF also doubles down on awarding players – citing both Minnesota Vikings’ safety Anthony Harris (30th) and safety Harrison Smith (35th) in the top 50. A similar doubling-down from the same defensive backfield is triggered by the Los Angeles Chargers’ safety Derwin James (31st) and cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. (39th).  Are they individually worthy of that ranking against all NFL competitors, or does the play of their talented teammate help to buoy their own rankings?

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In the end, we can all agree that All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald will have one helluva season in 2020. The greatest challenge for the Rams defensive line is determining who will have the honor of lining up next to him this season.